The latest episode of Le Jour où tout a basculé begins with a homeless man asking pedestrians for une petite pièce, which is not "a little piece," but rather "a small coin" or "some small change":
Monsieur, s'il vous plaît, une petite pièce, un petit ticket restaurant...
Sir, please, a small coin, a small restaurant voucher...
Cap. 30, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Mon père s'oppose à ma passion - Part 1
Vous n'auriez pas une petite pièce?
You wouldn't have some small change?
Cap. 35, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Mon père s'oppose à ma passion - Part 1
Une pièce is short for une pièce de monnaie, "a piece of change." Monnaie is where we get the English word "money" (l'argent in French), but it actually means "change" or "currency":
Nous allons récupérer de la monnaie.
We're going to retrieve some change.
Cap. 50, Lionel: Voyage en train - Part 1
Une pièce can also be short for une pièce de théâtre ("a theater piece"), that is, "a play":
En général, on prenait la pièce d'un auteur connu.
We usually picked a play from a well-known author.
Cap. 33, Flora et le théâtre
And its meanings don't stop there. Une pièce is also "a room," which you might think of as a "piece" of a building:
Mais venez avec moi, dans l'autre pièce.
But come with me into the other room.
Cap. 25, Il était une fois - Notre Terre: 9. Les écosystèmes - Part 7
Sometimes, une pièce is just a plain old "piece," whether referring to a piece or part of something else:
Ce puzzle a cinq cents pièces.
This puzzle has five hundred pieces.
J'ai besoin d'une pièce détachée pour mon vélo.
I need a spare part for my bike.
Or referring to an item or object, such as a piece of art or an article of clothing:
Ici, chaque pièce "d'art de la table" est unique.
Here, every piece of "table art" is unique.
Cap. 9, Canal 32: Mesnil-Saint-Loup - moines artisans
Alors que c'est un ciré de création en pièce unique, quoi.
Although it's a unique piece, a designer raincoat, you know.
Cap. 27, Lyon: La Croix-Rousse - Part 2
You might also see pièce used as an adverb, generally when referencing the price of something. In this case it means "each" or, in a more direct translation, "apiece":
Les livres d'occasion coûtent un euro pièce.
The used books cost one euro each [or: apiece].
For even more pieces of information about the word pièce, see this extensive Larousse entry.
While discussing pigeons in Paris with his friend Lea, Lionel brings up an amusing French idiom referencing those ubiquitous city birds:
Alors se faire pigeonner en français, c'est vraiment se faire arnaquer, se faire avoir par une personne qui vous a soutiré de l'argent.
So "se faire pigeonner" [to be taken for a ride] in French is really to get ripped off, to be had by a person who has extracted money from you.
Cap. 54-59, Lea & Lionel L: Le parc de Bercy - Part 1
Se faire pigeonner literally means "to be taken for a pigeon." In English too, "a pigeon" can refer to someone who's gullible or easily swindled. Pigeons get a bad rap in both languages!
Let's take a look at some more animal expressions and idioms used in Yabla videos. Here's another bird-related one:
Oui. J'avoue être un peu poule mouillée.
Yes. I admit to being a bit of a wet hen [a wimp].
Cap. 23, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Notre appartement est hanté - Part 3
Calling someone poule mouillée is equivalent to calling them "chicken." A slightly less pejorative poultry-inspired moniker is un canard:
Qu'ils me disent que je m'affiche, qu'ils me traitent de canard
That they'll say that I am showing off, that they'll call me a duck [a slave to love]
Cap. 6-7, Grand Corps Malade: Comme une évidence
Un canard is a person who's so lovestruck they'll do whatever their partner desires. Believe it or not, it's also a slang term for "newspaper." There's even a famous French newspaper called Le Canard enchaîné (The Chained Duck), which Lionel discusses in a few other videos.
Don't confuse canard with cafard, the word for "cockroach." When used metaphorically, cafard means "depression" or "the blues":
Mon cafard me lâche moins souvent qu'autrefois
My blues don't let me go as much as before
Cap. 8, Debout Sur Le Zinc: Les mots d'amour
The expression avoir le cafard means "to be depressed," or literally, "to have the cockroach." And there's the adjective cafardeux/cafardeuse, which can mean either "depressing" or "depressed." Encountering a cockroach in your home can certainly be depressing, to say the least!
Though dogs are as beloved in France as they are in other countries, the word chien (dog) typically means "bad" or "nasty" when used as an adjective:
Fais demain quand le présent est chien
Make tomorrow when the present is bad
Cap. 3, Corneille: Comme un fils
You'll find chien in a couple of idioms involving bad weather, such as un temps de chien (nasty weather) and un coup de chien (a storm):
On va avoir un coup de chien, regarde!
We're going to have a dog's blow [stormy weather], look!
Cap. 55, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs: 10. Amerigo Vespucci - Part 5
You can also say un temps de cochon (pig weather) instead of un temps de chien:
Et aujourd'hui on a pas un temps de cochon par contre.
And today we don't have pig weather [rotten weather] however.
Cap. 22, Lionel: La Cathédrale de Toul - Part 2
In American English, "pigs" is a slang term for "cops." But the French call them vaches (cows):
Finally, they don't celebrate April Fools' Day in France, but rather "April Fish":
En tout cas j'espère que ce n'est pas un poisson d'avril.
In any event, I hope that it's not an April fish [April fool].
Cap. 21, Lionel: à Lindre-Basse - Part 5
In the latest episode of Le Jour où tout a basculé, Sarah receives some troubling news from her son Nino that could put her job in jeopardy:
Sarah ne se doute pas un instant de la tournure des évènements.
Sarah doesn't suspect for a moment the turn of events.
Cap. 2-3, Le Jour où tout a basculé: J'ai volé pour nourrir mon fils - Part 6
The verb douter looks a lot like the English verb "to doubt," and indeed, the two are exact cognates:
Et puis, je commençais aussi à douter.
And then, I also began to doubt.
Cap. 26, Le Jour où tout a basculé: À la recherche de mon père - Part 3
But se douter, the reflexive form of douter, doesn't mean "to doubt oneself," as you might expect. Instead, it means "to suspect" or "to guess":
Mais il ne se doute pas qu'à sa place va se présenter Edna, la complice de Louise.
But little does he know [he doesn't suspect] that in her place will be Edna, Louise's accomplice.
Cap. 63-65, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Mes grands-parents sont infidèles - Part 4
If you're really certain about something, you can use the phrase se douter bien:
Avec un regard comme celui-là, on se doute bien qu'il a dû en voir.
With a look like this, one might well guess that he must have seen a lot.
Cap. 1, Le Journal: Le photographe Cartier-Bresson
Je me doute bien qu'il sait comment cuisiner.
I'm sure he knows how to cook.
Both douter and se douter can be followed by de or que. (Se) douter de always comes before a noun (as in Sarah ne se doute pas un instant de la tournure des évènements), while (se) douter que always comes before an independent clause (as in je me doute bien qu'il sait comment cuisiner).
But douter and se douter differ in another important way besides their meaning. While se douter que always takes the indicative mood (since it expresses a certainty or near certainty), douter que can take the indicative or the subjunctive depending on context. In general, douter que takes the subjunctive in the affirmative and the indicative in the negative:
Je doute qu'il sache comment cuisiner.
I doubt he knows how to cook.
Je ne doute pas qu'elle sait la meilleure façon d'y arriver.
I don't doubt she knows the best way to get there.
As you may recall, the subjunctive is used to express a wish, uncertainty, or doubt. So if you're saying you don't doubt something, it makes sense that you would use the indicative rather than the subjunctive in that case.
We'll be back with a new lesson soon, sans aucun doute (without a doubt)!
The adjectives sensé(e) and censé(e) are easy to confuse, since they have the same pronunciation and almost the same spelling (in other words, they're homophones). Sensé(e) is related to the English word "sense," and means "sensible," "reasonable," or "sane":
J'étais face à trois personnes que je considérais comme étant parfaitement sensées.
I was facing three people whom I considered to be perfectly sane.
Cap. 80-81, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Notre appartement est hanté - Part 5
Censé(e) might remind you of the words "census," "censor," or "censure," but it means something quite different. It's the word for "supposed," as in "supposed to do something." Just like "supposed to," it's nearly always preceded by the verb "to be" (être) and followed by an infinitive:
On est censé faire réparer des objets qui ont quelques problèmes.
We're supposed to bring items that have some problems for repair.
Cap. 2, Actus de Quartier: Repair Café
On était censé n'avoir aucun souci, avoir des centrales complètement fiables...
They were supposed to have no concerns, to have totally reliable power plants...
Cap. 25, Manif du Mois: Fukushima plus jamais ça
Alors que la police, elle est censée être là pour nous protéger.
While the police are supposed to be there to protect us.
Cap. 14, Banlieues françaises: jeunes et policiers, l'impossible réconciliation? - Part 2
You can always say supposé(e) instead of censé(e), which might be a little easier to remember:
...son fameux pont qui était supposé être un lieu où [on] profitait de beaux panoramas.
...its famous bridge, which was supposed to be a place where you enjoy beautiful panoramas.
Cap. 26-27, De nouvelles découvertes avec Marion: Le parc des Buttes Chaumont
Or you can use the verb devoir, especially in the past tense:
...bien qu'elle se demanda en quoi cela devait l'aider à se rendre au bal.
...although she wondered in what way that was supposed to help her get to the ball.
Cap. 47-48, Contes de fées: Cendrillon - Part 1
Whichever version of "supposed to" you use is perfectly sensé!
In Part 2 of "Elle a banni le sucre pendant un an," Danièle Gerkens, a journalist at Elle magazine, talks about the health benefits she experienced after cutting sugar from her diet for one year. When the year was almost up, she was expecting to break her sugar fast with mountains of whipped cream, but it was actually a single piece of dark chocolate that did her in:
Je me disais que j'allais me rouler dans la chantilly, et cetera. Et puis en fait, plus ça arrivait, plus je me disais, mais qu'est-ce que je vais faire?
I told myself that I was going to wallow in whipped cream, et cetera. And then in fact, the closer it came [to the end], the more I was wondering, but what am I going to do?
Cap. 102-104, Le Figaro: Elle a banni le sucre pendant un an - Part 2
Note the two different translations of je me disais here: "I told myself" and "I was wondering." The reflexive verb se dire can mean a number of things depending on context, namely "to tell/say to oneself" and "to wonder/think." In a sense, these both mean the same thing: when you wonder or think about something, you're telling yourself about it.
When multiple people se disent, they could be thinking about something or telling themselves something, but they could also just be talking to each other:
Christine et Alice sont de meilleures amies. Elles se disent tout.
Christine and Alice are best friends. They tell each other everything.
Se dire can also mean "to say of oneself," or in other words, "to claim to be":
Le Charles de Gaulle, où la direction se dit d'abord victime de son image.
Charles de Gaulle [Hospital], where the management claims first of all to be a victim of its image.
Cap. 29, Le Journal: Hôpital ultra-moderne à Burkina Faso
Or se dire can simply mean "to be said," which has a few different connotations. Here Danièle is (somewhat cheekily) talking about something she thinks is taboo and can't be mentioned in public. Believe it or not, she's referring to her love of milk chocolate!
Je sais, ça se dit pas, mais j'adorais ça.
I know you're not supposed to say it, but that's what I loved.
Cap. 112, Le Figaro: Elle a banni le sucre pendant un an - Part 2
In its most general sense, se dire refers to anything that "is said" in everyday language:
Par contre, "faire le beau" se dit d'un chien qui se tient sur les pattes arrière pour réclamer un sucre.
On the other hand, faire le beau is said of a dog that stands on its hind legs to beg for a lump of sugar.
Cap. 24-25, Margaux et Manon: Emplois du verbe faire
"Je n'ai pas des biscuits": ça se dit en français? -Non. Il faut dire: "je n'ai pas de biscuits".
Can you say je n'ai pas des biscuits in French? -No. You have to say je n'ai pas de biscuits [I don't have any cookies].
Don't confuse ça se dit with ça te dit (or ça vous dit in the plural), which means "how does that sound" or "how would you like..." (literally, "does it speak to you"):
Ça te dit de réviser les multiples sens de l'expression "se dire"?
How would you like to review the multiple meanings of the expression se dire?
There are two new videos dealing with food on Yabla this week. The first is the latest episode of Le Jour où tout a basculé, which focuses on a struggling frozen-food worker and her difficult son. The second is an interview with Christian Le Squer, the head chef at the three-Michelin-starred restaurant Le Cinq. Both videos contain a good number of interesting food-related words, which we'll go over in this lesson.
1. Des pâtes
Y a quoi pour le dîner? -Des pâtes.
What's for dinner? -Pasta.
Cap. 3-4, Le Jour où tout a basculé: J'ai volé pour nourrir mon fils - Part 1
"Pasta" is a singular noun, but when you say you're having pasta for dinner, you don't mean you're just having one piece of pasta, right? That's why you say des pâtes (plural) in French when talking about a pasta meal. Une pâte (singular) refers to one piece of pasta, and it's also the word for "paste," "pastry," and "dough." Don't confuse it with le pâté, which means—you guessed it—"pâté."
Pourtant, ça empêche pas mes potes de bouffer de la viande.
Even so, that doesn't stop my buddies from eating meat.
Cap. 49, Le Jour où tout a basculé: J'ai volé pour nourrir mon fils - Part 1
This is a very common slang word meaning "to eat." You can use it instead of the standard verb manger when speaking informally. And instead of la nourriture (food), you can say la bouffe.
3. Des plats surgelés
Sarah est secrétaire dans une société de fabrication de plats surgelés.
Sarah is a secretary at a frozen-food manufacturing company.
Cap. 35, Le Jour où tout a basculé: J'ai volé pour nourrir mon fils - Part 1
Des plats surgelés are frozen foods, but the term literally means "frozen dishes." Surgelé(e) is mostly used in food contexts and is often interchangeable with the related adjective congelé(e). The more general word for "frozen" is simply gelé(e).
4. Le couvert
Une quarantaine de couverts...
About forty place settings...
Cap. 9, Christian Le Squer: Je ne fais que goûter!
Couvert is the past participle of the verb couvrir (to cover), but when used as a noun (le couvert) it means "place setting" or "cutlery." This makes sense if you think about it, since when you set a table, you cover it with plates, glasses, and silverware. In fact, the phrase mettre le couvert means "to set the table," or literally, "to put down the place setting."
Faut la faire torréfier.
It's got to be roasted.
Cap. 23, Christian Le Squer: Je ne fais que goûter!
Christian Le Squer is referring to a hazelnut (une noisette) that he thinks needs to be roasted. Torréfier is mainly used when talking about roasting nuts or coffee beans. When you're roasting meat or vegetables, you use the verb rôtir or faire rôtir.
6. Une entrée
viande, poisson, entrée, et sucrée
meat, fish, starters, and sweets
Cap. 34, Christian Le Squer: Je ne fais que goûter!
In American English, "entrée" is another word for "main course." But une entrée actually means an "appetizer" or "starter" in French. It also means "an entrance." To remember this difference in meaning, just think of an appetizer as the "entrance" to a meal. If you'd like to learn the history of the word "entrée" in English, check out this interesting blog post.
And for more food-related words, see this Yabla lesson.
Lionel is back with his cousin Jean-Pierre, who, in addition to being a wildlife expert, is also a dog expert. With the help of his trusty border collie, Chic, Jean-Pierre gives Lionel some helpful pointers on training dogs.
In part two of the series, Jean-Pierre gives Chic a number of basic dog commands, which Chic performs perfectly. We'll go over some of those commands in this lesson. You may want to revisit our lessons on the imperative mood before reading on, since most of the commands are in that mood.
We'll start with the most basic ones—"come," "look," and "sit":
Viens! Regarde. Viens. Assis!
Come! Look. Come. Sit!
Cap. 31-33, Lionel: au club canin - Part 2
Of the above commands, can you spot the one that isn't in the imperative? If you guessed assis, you're correct! Assis is in fact the past participle of the verb s'asseoir (to sit) and literally means "seated." Jean-Pierre could also have said assieds-toi (sit), which is the true imperative of the verb s'asseoir, but assis is more commonly used as a command for dogs.
Jean-Pierre uses another past participle as a command a few captions later:
Go on, lie down.
Cap. 39, Lionel: au club canin - Part 2
Couché is the past participle of coucher (to go to bed), but to a well-trained dog, it's a command to "lie down."
After Jean-Pierre throws a ball, he says:
Prends! Voilà. Apporte.
Catch! That's it. Fetch.
Cap. 50-52, Lionel: au club canin - Part 2
Prends and apporte are imperative forms of the verbs prendre (to take) and apporter (to bring). So it makes sense that they also mean "catch" and "fetch."
Jean-Pierre uses another word for "catch" at another point in the video:
Tu sais attraper, là?
Can you catch, there?
Cap. 35, Lionel: au club canin - Part 2
Finally, he tells Chic to heel, or, literally, to "come to foot":
Viens au pied, là.
Come to foot [heel], there.
Cap. 45, Lionel: au club canin - Part 2
You'll also find a fair number of races de chiens (dog breeds) mentioned in this video:
un teckel - a dachshund
un dalmatien - a Dalmatian
un chien de chasse - a hunting dog
un berger allemand - a German shepherd
un chien terrier - a terrier (un terrier also means "a burrow")
un bâtard - a mutt
And of course, there's un border collie, like Chic!
Daniel Benchimol concludes his latest video, on the town of Montmorency, a little differently than he usually does. He introduces us to Philippe, the man behind the scenes of Daniel's numerous travel videos. Philippe does it all: he films, he directs, he edits. Daniel uses some basic film terminology in his description of Philippe:
Laissez-moi vous présenter mon compagnon de tournage, Philippe, qui réalise, qui monte et qui fait l'ensemble de ce que vous ne voyez pas.
Let me present to you my filming companion, Philippe, who directs, who edits, and who does everything that you don't see.
Cap. 47-48, Voyage en France: Montmorency - Part 4
Tournage comes from the verb tourner, which, as you might have guessed, means "to turn." But in movie parlance, tourner means "to film" (and le tournage means "filming" or "film shoot"). To remember this, just think of film reels turning on an old movie camera.
We discussed the verb réaliser in a previous lesson. Among its many meanings is "to direct" a film or stage production. The related word réalisateur (masculine) or réalisatrice (feminine) means "director" or "filmmaker"—in other words, the person who "realizes" the film.
Yabla has a lesson on monter as well! Its basic meanings are "to climb" and "to put up," but monter can also mean "to edit" a film. The English word "montage" refers to a specific technique of combining short clips to form a continuous sequence, but the French le montage refers more generally to the "editing" of a film.
Another Yabla video takes us to Concarneau in Brittany, where a film crew documented the town's rich maritime heritage. You'll find some interesting film-related words at the beginning of the video:
Moteur! Séance de tournage sur le port de Concarneau. En face de l'objectif, le maître du port.
Action! Filming session on the Concarneau harbor. In front of the camera lens, the harbormaster.
Cap. 1-3, Télévision Bretagne Ouest: Concarneau - Un tournage sur la vie maritime
Moteur usually just means "motor" or "engine," but here it means "Action!" This is actually a shortened version of the phrase silence, moteur, action! (literally, "silence, motor, action!"), the French equivalent of "lights, camera, action!" You can also say moteur, ça tourne, action! ("motor, it's filming, action!").
You might be wondering what a "camera lens" has to do with an "objective." If you consider that un objectif also means "an aim," the relationship might be clearer. A filmmaker or photographer aims their camera lens at their subject, so it makes sense that objectif is the word for "camera lens."
Our friend Lionel is known for his witty puns and excellent comedic timing. He even filmed a standup set for Yabla! Apparently, a good sense of humor runs in his family. In Lionel's latest video, his cousin Jean-Pierre cracks a joke about the Vosges mountain range:
Y a une blague à propos des Vosges du Nord. Quand on voit pas les Vosges du Nord, c'est qu'il pleut. Et quand on les voit bien, c'est qu'il va pleuvoir.
There's a joke about the Northern Vosges. When you don't see the Northern Vosges, it's because it's raining. And when you see them clearly, it means it's going to rain.
Cap. 85-90, Lionel: à Lindre-Basse - Part 7
If you didn't laugh at Jean-Pierre's joke, you probably had to be there (near the Northern Vosges, that is).
Une blague doesn't only refer to a verbal joke. It can also be a trick or a prank you play on someone:
On va leur faire une bonne blague!
We're going to play a nice trick on them!
Cap. 23, Il était une fois... Notre Terre: 9. Les écosystèmes - Part 4
Une farce and un tour are the other words for "trick," "prank," or "practical joke":
Une farce joyeuse et de franche gaieté.
A joyous prank with uninhibited gaiety.
Cap. 10, Il était une fois... l’Homme: 6. Le siècle de Périclès - Part 4
Ils ont plus d'un tour dans leur sac.
They have more than one trick in their bag [up their sleeves].
Cap. 34, Il était une fois... La vie: 14. La bouche et les dents - Part 6
There's also another word for "joke": une plaisanterie. This example explains what happens in your body when you laugh at a joke:
Vous savez que ce sont les lèvres glottiques qui sous l'effet d'une plaisanterie se mettent à vibrer.
You know that it's the glottic folds that start vibrating when a joke is told.
Cap. 8-9, Le Journal: Les effets bénéfiques du rire!
So how do you say "to crack a joke" or "to tell a joke" in French? You can either say raconter une plaisanterie or raconter une blague:
Il aime raconter des plaisanteries [or des blagues] grivoises.
He loves to tell dirty jokes.
But if you're talking about "joking" or "joking/messing around," then you use the verbs plaisanter or blaguer:
Ils blaguaient tout le temps pendant leur enfance.
They always used to joke around when they were little.
Tu plaisantes! Je ne crois pas ça. -Non, je ne plaisante pas!
You're kidding! I don't believe that. -No, I'm not kidding!
Thanks for reading! We'll be back soon with a new lesson. Sans blague! (No joke!)
Animals are generally (and perhaps unjustly) considered to be less intelligent than humans, which explains why the French word bête can mean both "beast" and "stupid":
Après tout, c'est bête la guerre.
After all, war is stupid.
Cap. 25, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs: 15. Bruce et les sources du Nil - Part 7
The related noun bêtise can mean anything along the lines of "stupidity" or "idiocy." You can use it in a general sense to talk about "something stupid":
Après les parents, ils me disent, quand ils font une bêtise...
Later the parents tell me, when they do something stupid...
Cap. 56, Banlieues françaises: jeunes et policiers, l'impossible réconciliation? - Part 1
Or you might use it to refer to something more specific, such as a mistake. Une bêtise isn't just any old mistake, but a particularly stupid one:
Vous allez réparer vos bêtises.
You're going to repair your stupid mistakes.
Cap. 31, Il était une fois - Notre Terre: 9. Les écosystèmes - Part 4
Of course, if you tell someone he or she has made a stupid mistake, you could be implying that the person him or herself is stupid. Une erreur is a more neutral word for "mistake" that doesn't connote stupidity:
Elle fait une terrible erreur
She's making a terrible mistake
Cap. 4, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Mes grands-parents sont infidèles - Part 3
The plural bêtises is often used to refer to "nonsense," "mischief," or any kind of naughty behavior:
Arrête tes bêtises.
Stop your nonsense.
Cap. 28, Agnès Varda: Le lion volatil - Part 2
Mais si on fait des bêtises, on sait jamais...
But if we get into mischief, you never know...
Cap. 89, Actu Vingtième: Le Repas des anciens
If you argue with someone over des bêtises, you're arguing over nothing:
Mes enfants se disputent toujours pour des bêtises.
My kids are always arguing with each other over nothing.
When it comes to learning a language, there's no such thing as a stupid mistake. So don't fret if you forget an accent mark or type in the wrong word in a Yabla game—you've just made a simple erreur, not une bêtise!
For fun, here's an 80s throwback for you: Sabine Paturel's "Les Bêtises," which was a smash hit in France in 1986.
In a recent lesson, we talked about the words bon/bonne and mauvais/mauvaise, which respectively mean "good" and "bad," but can also mean "right" and "wrong" depending on context. It's easy to confuse these with the words bien and mal, which have similar meanings ("well" and "badly/poorly") but different functions.
Bon/bonne and mauvais/mauvaise are adjectives, which means they change according to the number and gender of the noun they modify:
Alors justement je crois que c'est vraiment une très bonne chose...
So, exactly, I think that it's really a very good thing...
Cap. 56, Alsace 20: 100 recettes pour 100 vins
Il y a eu la destruction de la partie de maison existante qui était en très mauvais état.
There was the destruction of the existing part of the house that was in very bad shape.
Cap. 22, Thomas: Thomas et sa maison
On the other hand, bien and mal are adverbs, which can modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Unlike adjectives, these never change in French:
...un grand orfèvre parisien que Balzac connaissait bien.
...a great Parisian goldsmith whom Balzac knew well.
Cap. 28, Exposition: Balzac, architecte d'intérieurs
Il paraît que les voyages en train finissent mal en général
It seems that train rides generally end badly
Cap. 54, Grand Corps Malade: Les Voyages en train
Just as it's ungrammatical to say "whom Balzac knew good" and "train rides generally end bad" in English, in French you can't say que Balzac connaissait bon or les voyages en train finissent mauvais. You have to use bien/mal.
Bien and mal can also function as nouns. In philosophical terms, they refer to "good" and "evil":
Quelle est la différence entre le bien et le mal?
What is the difference between good and evil?
But they have more down-to-earth meanings as well. For instance, the plural les biens means "goods," as in commodities or possessions. And mal can also refer to illness or harm, as in the expressions avoir mal and faire mal:
J'ai mal à l'oreille.
I have an earache.
Ne me fais pas mal!
Don't hurt me!
In everyday speech, bon and bien are also used as interjections, in which case they're more or less interchangeable. They both correspond to the English interjection "well" in this context:
Eh bien, j'espère que vous avez passé un bon moment, ici, sur Arles.
Well, I hope you had a good time here, in Arles.
Cap. 21, Arles: Un Petit Tour d'Arles - Part 3
Bon, il y a des raisons personnelles évidemment qui jouent.
Well, obviously there are personal reasons that come into play.
Cap. 17, Alphabétisation: des filles au Sénégal
It's sometimes hard to tell the difference between good and bad, but at least now you know the difference between bon, mauvais, bien, and mal!
Stay tuned for our next lesson and tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a recent video, Lionel samples some beer at a local market in the town of Toul. In classic Lionel fashion, he delivers a witty pun:
Quand on boit de la bière Coin Coin il faut vivre dans une pièce sans coins.
When you drink "Coin Coin" [Quack Quack] beer, you need to live in a room without corners.
Cap. 36-37, Lionel: Les bières artisanales Coin Coin
The name of the beer is derived from the onomatopoeic expression coin coin, or "quack quack," as in the sound a duck makes (check out this page for some more French animal sounds). When not repeated, the word coin has several meanings. As Lionel demonstrates, un coin usually means "a corner." He's talking specifically about the corner of a room, but un coin can also be a street corner:
Au coin de la rue Fabre et de la rue Laurier...
At the corner of Rue Fabre [Fabre Street] and Rue Laurier [Laurier Street]...
Cap. 39, Canadian Chocolate Seller: Chocolats
The other word for "corner" in French is angle (which literally means "angle," as you may have guessed). So you could just as easily say l'angle de la pièce (the corner of the room) or l'angle de la rue (the street corner).
Sometimes, un coin can refer not simply to a street corner, but to a broader area of a town or city:
De l'extérieur, on dit que c'est un coin... un quartier chaud.
Outsiders say that this is an area... a rough neighborhood.
Cap. 29, Actus de Quartier: Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois - Part 3
Or it can have a more general locational meaning, like "spot" or "place":
J'ai trouvé un coin sympa au bord de l'eau.
I found a nice spot on the waterfront.
There's also the adjectival phrase du coin, which refers to all things local:
Pas de polémique: qu'ils soient du coin ou qu'ils viennent de loin...
No argument: whether they're from around here or from far away...
Cap. 14, Le Journal: Un automne bien chaud
Nous sommes allés au bistrot du coin.
We went to the local bistro.
Coin is a false cognate of the English word "coin." The word for "coin" is pièce, which also means "room," as in Lionel's example above. Try not to get them confused!
C'est la pièce de dix euros qui représente la région.
It's the ten-euro coin that represents the region.
Cap. 2, Normandie TV: La pièce de 10 euros bas-normande
You can find many expressions featuring coin on this page. Keep them dans un coin de la tête (at the back of your mind) for whenever you speak French!
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We all know that when you're angry about something, it's better to talk about your emotions than to keep them pent up inside. If you ever need to vent in French, there are several constructions you can use to express your anger.
Two of these constructions employ the French word for anger, la colère (related to the English word "choleric," meaning "bad-tempered" or "irritable"). As in English, there's a distinction in French between being angry (être en colère) and getting angry (se mettre en colère, literally, "to put oneself in anger"):
J'étais très en colère contre Harold.
I was very angry at Harold.
Cap. 28, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Notre appartement est hanté - Part 6
Elle devenait nerveuse, elle se mettait en colère.
She became nervous, she got angry.
Caption 3, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Mon père n'est pas mort - Part 2
Note the preposition contre in the example above. Whereas in English you can be angry "at" or "with" someone, in French you're angry "against" someone.
If you're really angry about something, you can use the construction fou/folle de (which we discussed in a previous lesson):
Elles sont folles de colère, folles de rage, horripilées.
They are wild with anger, raging mad, incensed.
Cap. 52-54, Le saviez-vous? - Les synonymes
Besides expressions with colère, the other main way of describing anger in French is with the adjective fâché(e) (angry) or the reflexive verb se fâcher (to get angry):
Tu es fâché contre Léon?
Are you angry with Leon?
Cap. 2, Les zooriginaux: Léa jacta est - Part 3
Ça va, vieux, te fâche pas!
It's OK, old pal, don't get upset!
Cap. 22, Il était une fois... L’Espace: 3. La planète verte - Part 3
Don't confuse the adjective fâché(e) with the adjective fâcheux/fâcheuse, which has a slightly more subdued meaning. It can mean anything along the lines of "annoying," "unfortunate," "regrettable," or "aggravating":
C'est fâcheux qu'il ne puisse pas venir.
It's unfortunate that he can't come.
We hope there was nothing in this lesson that made you angry! Stay tuned for our next lesson and tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The adjective malin appears in two recent videos on Yabla, and it has two very different meanings in each. In the last segment of Le Jour où tout a basculé: Notre appartement est hanté, we finally get to the bottom of the spooky occurrences in Harold and Claire's apartment, thanks to Harold's clever investigations:
Mais cette fois-ci, le couple s'est attaqué à un adversaire plus malin que les autres.
But this time, the couple tackled an opponent who was smarter than the others.
Cap. 34, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Notre appartement est hanté - Part 8
And in Lionel's visit to Toul Cathedral, we learn about the cathedral's gargoyles and what they represent:
Ici là-bas, on a une représentation du diable, du malin, d'un démon.
Here, over there, we have a representation of the devil, of the evil one, of a demon.
Cap. 26-27, Lionel: La Cathédrale de Toul - Part 2
While malin is most often used as an adjective meaning "smart," it can also have darker undertones, especially when used as a noun. In the second example, the tour guide uses it as a synonym for the devil, but un malin can also just refer to a trickster or a wily person. And don't forget that "smart" can have a negative connotation in English too:
Ça sera peut-être d'avoir l'air malin dans l'interview, hein.
It might be looking like a smart aleck in the interview, you know?
Cap. 21, Micro-Trottoirs: Un rêve récurrent?
Bien sûr. Et nous aussi on voudrait du sucre, gros malin!
Of course. And us too, we would like some sugar, wise guy!
Cap. 12, Il était une fois... la vie: 14. La bouche et les dents - Part 3
Ne fais pas le malin avec moi.
Don't get smart with me.
Note that the feminine form of malin isn't maline, but maligne:
Et même, très maligne, ma petite Clémentine!
And even very clever, my little Clémentine!
Cap. 46, Manon et Clémentine: Conjugaison du verbe être
You'll also see this -in/-igne ending in the word bénin/bénigne (benign, minor), which is actually an antonym of malin/maligne: une tumeur maligne is a malignant tumor, and une tumeur bénigne is a benign tumor.
Manu le Malin is a famous French hardcore DJ. You can check out some interviews with him on Yabla.
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Habiter and vivre both mean "to live" in French, but they're used in slightly different contexts. Habiter is very similar in meaning to its English cognate, "to inhabit": it generally refers to where a person is living. While vivre can also have this meaning, it more often refers to a person's living conditions or general existence. Let's look at some examples to illustrate the difference between these two lively verbs.
It's very common to place a preposition such as à or dans after habiter to describe where you're living:
On habite à Still, on a eu une superbe opportunité.
We live in Still, we had a superb opportunity.
Cap. 7, Alsace 20 - Grain de Sel: à l'Anatable à Dinsheim
J'habite dans une maison bleue.
I live in a blue house.
But technically, habiter doesn't require a preposition at all. You could just as well say on habite Still (we live in Still) or j'habite une maison bleue (I live in a blue house). The choice is yours! Here's another example of habiter without a preposition:
De là à habiter ce bout du monde isolé...
From there to inhabiting this isolated end of the world...
Cap. 3, Le Journal: L'île de Pâques
Whereas habiter describes the specifics of a person's living situation, vivre is more about la vie en général (life in general). It describes how a person lives, or what their life is like:
Elle a permis à Michel, sinon de faire fortune, du moins de vivre bien avec sa petite famille...
It has allowed Michel, if not to become rich, at least to live well with his small family...
Cap. 17-18, Le Journal: L'île de Pâques
...un petit village qui vit son quotidien de manière tranquille
...a small village that lives its daily life in a quiet way
Cap. 4, Lionel et Chantal: à Frémestroff
Vivre can also mean "to live through" or "to experience":
Moi je dirais que c'est magique et que ça se raconte pas, qu'il faut le vivre.
I'd say that it's magical and that it can't be described, that you have to experience it.
Cap. 24, TV Vendée: "Nieul Village de Lumière"
No matter where you're living or how you're living, we hope your French studies are going well!
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There are two ways of saying "finally" in French: finalement and enfin. Though they have the same translation and are often used interchangeably in casual speech, these two words aren't exactly synonymous. There's a subtle difference between them that's illustrated in these two examples:
Le grand jour est enfin arrivé.
The big day finally arrived.
Cap. 28, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Nos bébés ont été échangés... - Part 7
Au début... j'étais braquée. J'avais pas envie. Puis finalement j'ai compris que c'était pour mon bien.
In the beginning... I was dead against it. I didn't want to. Then finally I understood that it was for my own good.
Cap. 6-7, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Nos bébés ont été échangés... - Part 8
When you say that something has finally arrived, you're implying that you've been expecting it to arrive for a while. But if you finally understand that something is for your own good after being dead against it, you're implying that you didn't expect to have this reversal of opinion. This is the fundamental difference between enfin and finalement: while enfin describes a foreseeable outcome, finalement describes an unforeseeable one.
Let's look at another example. If you say to someone, je suis enchanté(e) de vous rencontrer enfin (I'm glad to finally meet you), you're saying that you've been wanting to meet them for a long time. But if you say, je suis enchanté(e) de vous rencontrer finalement, you're giving the impression that you didn't really want to meet the person at first, but now you're happy that you did. Which is to say that you shouldn't use finalement in this case, unless you want to hurt their feelings!
Finalement can also mean "in the end," which also has the sense of something not turning out as expected:
Alors demain, finalement, on ira pas au château.
So tomorrow, in the end, we won't go to the castle.
Cap. 54, Le Mans TV: Mon Village - Malicorne - Part 3
Another way of translating that caption would be, "So tomorrow we won't go to the castle after all."
Enfin is used very often in informal speech as a sort of filler word that can mean anything from "well" to "I mean" to "in any case":
Il y en a eu tant que ça? -Oui, enfin, non, euh... quelques-uns, quoi.
Have there been that many? -Yes, well [or "I mean"], no, uh... a few, you know.
Cap. 37-38, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Notre appartement est hanté - Part 2
...où nous sommes au métro Jaurès, enfin, où Paris-Plage a accès à l'eau.
...where we are at the Jaurès subway stop, in any case, where "Paris-Plage" has access to the water.
Cap. 2-3, Lionel L: Paris-Plage - Part 2
Enfin can also come in handy when expressing impatience or frustration:
Mais enfin, relève-toi!
Come on, stand up!
Cap. 2, Il était une fois - les Explorateurs: 15. Bruce et les sources du Nil - Part 3
Cette leçon est enfin terminée! (This lesson is finally over!) Tweet us @yabla or send your topic suggestions to email@example.com.
The words quelconque (any) and quiconque (anyone) can come in handy when you're talking about something general or non-specific in French. Though they look quite similar, you can easily tell these words apart by focusing on what comes before -conque: qui (who) and quel (what, which). There are a few key differences between these words. While quelconque can refer to both people and things, quiconque only refers to people. And while quiconque functions as a relative or indefinite pronoun, quelconque functions as an adjective:
Elle fouille la maison de fond en comble à la recherche d'un quelconque indice.
She rifles through the house from top to bottom in search of any clue.
Cap. 19, Le Jour où tout a basculé: Nos bébés ont été échangés... - Part 5
Mais la petite sirène était incapable de faire du mal à quiconque.
But the little mermaid was incapable of hurting anyone.
Cap. 41, Contes de fées: La petite sirène - Part 2
Quelconque and quiconque are very similar to two other expressions we discussed in a previous lesson, n'importe quel and n'importe qui:
Ils la postent dans n'importe quelle boîte aux lettres en oubliant pas de mettre leur adresse retour...
They mail it in any mailbox, not forgetting to put their return address...
Cap. 11, LCM: "Cher Père Noël..."
Et qui l'achète? -Ah, n'importe qui.
And who buys it? -Oh, anyone.
Cap. 4-5, Le Journal: La bougie du sapeur
Note that while the quel in n'importe quel changes depending on the gender and number of the noun it modifies (n'importe quelle, n'importe quels, n'importe quelles), the quel in quelconque never changes. However, since quelconque is an adjective, it takes an "s" when modifying a plural noun:
Si vous avez de quelconques questions, n'hésitez pas à nous contacter.
If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact us.
Quiconque can mean "whoever" or "anyone who" in more formal contexts:
Quiconque arrive en retard ne sera pas autorisé à entrer dans le théâtre.
Anyone who arrives late will not be allowed to enter the theater.
And quelconque is sometimes used as a pejorative meaning "ordinary," "second-rate," or "mediocre":
Ce restaurant est très quelconque.
That restaurant is very mediocre.
Thanks for reading! Tweet us @yabla or send your newsletter topic suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Daniel does a lot of walking in his Voyage en France series, showing us around some of France's most beautiful and historic cities and towns. He also uses several walking-related words during his tours:
Et d'emblée depuis cette promenade...
And right away from this walk...
Cap. 5, Voyage en France: Conflans-Sainte-Honorine - Part 3
In English, "promenade" is a somewhat formal word for a boardwalk or a leisurely stroll. But une promenade is the standard French term for "a walk" or, when you're going somewhere in a vehicle, "a ride" or "drive":
Hier nous avons fait une promenade en voiture.
We went for a drive yesterday.
Its verb form, se promener, means "to take a walk":
Quand on se promène dans le vieux Conflans...
When we take a walk in Old Conflans...
Cap. 22, Voyage en France: Conflans-Sainte-Honorine - Part 3
Daniel also frequently uses the word une balade (not to be confused with une ballade, "a ballad"), which has the same meaning as une promenade:
Pendant votre balade dans le vieux Conflans...
During your walk in Old Conflans...
Cap. 28, Voyage en France: Conflans-Sainte-Honorine - Part 3
Just like une promenade, une balade also has a verb form, se balader:
À se balader avec lui dans les rues de Dakar, on mesure toute la dimension de l'artiste.
Strolling along the streets of Dakar with him, one gets a sense of the depths of the artist.
Cap. 28-29, Le Journal: Youssou N'Dour
C'est très, très agréable de se balader avec ces bateaux sur la mer.
It's very, very pleasant to go for a ride on those boats on the sea.
Cap. 33-34, Jean-Marc: La plage - Part 2
As you may know, marcher is the basic French verb for "to walk." But it's also often used informally to mean "to work," "to function," or "to go well":
Non, c'est juste pour voir si tout marche bien.
No, it's just to see if everything is working well.
Cap. 2, Il était une fois - Les découvreurs: 9. Galilée - Part 5
Elle est chez les seniors. Et ça marche bien.
She's with the seniors. And it's going well.
Cap. 43, Actus de Quartier: Fête de quartier Python-Duvernois - Part 3
Just as you can say "that works" to mean "OK" or "sounds good to me," in French you can say ça marche:
Tu veux prendre un café aujourd'hui à quinze heures? -Ça marche!
Do you want to get coffee today at three p.m.? -That works!
Now that you know all the different ways of saying "walk" in French, why not go take one?